I want to visit two points that I recently talked about in my last post and that continue to pique my interest: trusting and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
From a relatively young age, we are taught about workplace manners. Don’t talk about politics in the workplace. You might not like your coworkers, but, just be nice to them and then leave when the clock strikes 5:00 p.m. Do what the boss says. A quick Google search of “workplace manners” will return many articles about having good manners at work.
Zerion doesn’t play by these rules. Now, I’m not saying we’re a bunch of misfits swinging from the exposed pipelines in our modern office space. But, we do things our way…the Zerion Way.
When I joined Zerion in 2014, we were a small but mighty 20-some person team. Everyone did their part to keep the gears moving. As we grew and continue to grow, we’ve gone through growing pains together and continue to come out stronger than we were. Sometime in 2017, our CEO, Sze, shared some of his discoveries of why Zerion exists and the kind of company culture he wanted us to cultivate as a team. One of the components of this culture was the ability to get mad at each other. I don’t remember his exact words but they were along the lines of “I want all of you to feel comfortable yelling at me and knowing you won’t get fired.”
Yelling at someone in an “authoritative” role goes against anything and everything we learn growing up.
This sounded downright crazy to me. Isn’t there a certain hierarchy we’re supposed to follow in a work environment? But, okay, Sze seems like a stable-minded guy. He wouldn’t say this unless he meant it.
I had to remind myself of two foundations that had already been proven and reaffirmed at Zerion: trust each other and get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Our company growing pains were uncomfortable but each time we all got comfortable with the changes and moved forward. This was another one of those moments. What Sze was saying, was that he wanted each of us to know we were a vital part of the team and had the power to make a difference.
The reality of it is that every person has different perspectives and brings different information to the table. This concept of “yelling” at each other means he was empowering us to be an expert in what we do. There’s no way to advocate for what’s important if you’re not an expert in it and know how to champion that work. A developer is going to have a different perspective than an events coordinator who’s going to have a different perspective compared to a customer success manager.
Every perspective is important.
We could speak up to our team lead about anything. We could speak up to the CEO about anything. We said “see-ya” to the red tape and adios to the barriers that are often spoken about in workplaces.
Let me be the first to tell you that it takes work to undo everything you’ve learned and to trust that you can and need to speak up, but, it’s vital to succeeding.
Having an open-mind to change habits allows for individual, team, and company growth. As a team, we continue to learn how to yell and to make ourselves heard…but also how to learn when others are doing the same, to respect the feedback we receive and use it to grow together and how to “make up” and “move on” when obstacles arise. We are “unlearning” what we learned in all of the “traditional” workplace culture messages and etiquette handbooks, and are carve one of our own.
Our culture might not look the same as others, but, that’s what makes it special. It’s why I enjoy coming to work each day and part of how we’re able to embrace working remotely.
For us, the Zerion Way is the only way.
Lastly, you might be wondering what the lily pond at the top has to do with any of this. A lotus flower grows from the bottom of a muddy, murky pond and slowly emerges toward to surface until it bursts into a beautiful blossom. Its stem is flexible but does not break. Just as the stem grows through the surface, each of us grows through experience, challenges, accomplishments, and teamwork.
Trusting that Yelling at the CEO Won’t Get You Fired was originally published in ZerionCustomerSuccess on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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